Cockroach Milk: When Small Creatures Bring Big NutritionSep 26, 2016
Move over, Soylent – there’s a new all-in-one superfood that may help us unlock better nutrition for the global population. Researchers have discovered that a species of cockroach, the world’s hardiest creature, produces a protein-rich crystalline “milk” with a caloric energy three times that of buffalo milk.
Cockroach Milk: Delicious and Nutritious!
The roach in question – Diploptera Punctata – is the only of its species that is viviparous, giving birth to live young, rather than laying eggs. The mother feeds her young with shiny crystals that come from her abdomen.
As one of the research authors Sanchari Banerjee explains, “The crystals are like a complete food—they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids.” Additionally, because the nutrients are in a crystalline form, it’s a time-released food, says a fellow author Ramaswamy S. “If you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete, this is it.”
Milk protein crystals spreading out of the cockroach abdomen.
The team, which is based at India’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, has sequenced the genes of these milk proteins. They plan to use a yeast system to synthetically produce these crystals on a large scale, and make it a sustainable superfood in the near future.
Saving the World with Entomophagy
Cockroach milk isn’t the only buggy secretion people eat. Lerp, a sticky, sugary bug secretion is becoming a hot commodity among foragers and insatiable gastronomes.
An insect secreting lerp, a substance that many foragers use as a substitute for sugar.
Beyond that, bugs are actually a common culinary component for 2 billion people around the planet, pretty much everywhere other than the western nations who still think they are icky. Eating them is known as “entomophagy”, and the concept garnered a lot of attention in the west after a report singing its praises was published by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization back in 2013.
Video accompanying the announcement of the UN FAO’s 2013 report.
The report explained that food production would have to increase by 70% to feed the 9 billion people that will live on Earth in 2050, not to mention the 1 billion people already “chronically hungry”. It touted insects as an integral part of the solution, as they provide a much higher yield of nutrients than other animals for the amount of food and water needed to raise them.
Details from the UN FAO report, as summarized by the Economist.
Consuming Bugs for Fun and Profit
Since then, around 30 cricket farms for human consumption have popped up around North America. The tiny livestock is further commercialized by companies like Exo, which raised $4 million in Series A financing earlier this year to expand production of its already popular protein bars containing ground crickets.
View of the pasture at Entomo Farms.
Earlier this spring, the first edible insect trade association was formed: the North American Edible Insects Coalition. As coalition member and founder of entomophagy nonprofit Little Herds Robert Nathan Allen explains, “the edible insect industry is now in the consumer mainstream with entry to grocery stores like Publix and retail outlets such as Disneyland. Our goal is that soon the average U.S. consumer will enjoy cricket tacos as easily as we now enjoy a sushi roll.”
Bugs might have helped us solve the world’s problems, as Terry Crews succinctly explains it in the video below.